Yesterday, MediaPost reported that for the first time since it has been tracked, the number of receivable television channels per household has stopped increasing and even decreased a bit (Universe Collapses: Well, TV's, Anyway):
Average Number Of TV Channels Receivable
TV executives are, of course, worried about this development and want Nielsen
to look into reasons for the decline.
I think the reasons should turn out to be pretty obvious. The "channel" concept as currently used on television has enormous search and mental transaction costs. Think about it. Imagine if the internet had to be accessed through "channels." Couldn't be done. Heck, one of the main reasons RSS is taking off is because it provides much better access to numerous sources of information. I'd never be able to keep track of as many blogs as I do if I had to do click through each like a channel.
The article notes that:
Still others think we've already reached a "channel-less" era of television, brought on by digital video recorders, where viewers essentially record and watch programming from their hard drives detached of the channels that originally televised them.
See, here's the thing. DVRs haven't had enough market penetration to make that big a difference in the numbers. These numbers have very little to do with DVRs, I think. What they do point out are the limits of the current television interface known as "channels." Even if there were no DVRs, I think channel reception would naturally peak out simply because people would find very little utility in dealing with the search costs of so many "channels."
More importantly, what this quote fails to capture (and television executives can't see) is that DVRs should ultimately lead to an increase in the number of programs available, as smaller markets can easily be served through broadcast at times when TiVo can capture the broadcast, but no one is physically watching at 3 in the morning. DVRs = more programs, fewer channels. The channel concept does go away, but that doesn't mean less content. It means more content more easily found.
Ultimately, of course, this all leads to the channel-less future I call "broadcatching."
via The Future of Television